Monthly Roundup – June 2017

Like May before it, June has been a pretty weird month for me. Firstly, it was my first  full month without any uni commitments ala exams, coursework, lectures .etc. which was lovely, but did mean that all of my term time fatigue crashed down on me in the first few weeks. Then, just as I got over my tiredness I did a massively enjoyable but very tiring week of work experience in a local high school. June has therefore been a bit of a rollercoaster and has felt hugely long!

Despite this, I got a few books under my belt this month including some off my summer TBR pile which is fab!

Even though I started The Book Thief last month, the first book I finished this month was a book called Alice in Brexitland by Leavis Carroll. I should point out now that I don’t normally read two books at once but I was inspired by the UK general election to read this piece of political satire and I knew I could read it in a couple of hours at most. To be honest, I wasn’t hugly fond of this read. Although I’m pleased I tried a new genre I feel this one is just not for me. Additionally, I read this book in the days leading up to the election which made the calling of the EU referendum seem a little like old-news (I wouldn’t suggest reading political satire about one major event in the lead up to another!). Even so, it was interesting to see how literature can be used in different fields such as politics. ¬†My inner A-level History student also made an appearence while I read this book as I was thinking back to when we had to analyse sources such as political cartoons and imagining children in the future doing the same with this text which was an interesting way to look at it!

Next, I finished The Book Thief. I won’t say much about it here as I have already posted a more detailed discussion of it. All I will say is that I loved it as much, if not more, than I did the first time I read it.

After The Book Thief I decided to move on to another book from my summer TBR list in the form of I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore. This novel is the first in a series about a group of aliens who flee from their home planet after it is destroyed by another alien race and come to earth. There are nine of these aliens and they are supposedly the saviours of their home planet but they are being hunted by the other race (I’m not sure I’m selling this wonderfully; it’s actually a really interesting concept and doesn’t come across as nearly half as complicated as I’m making it seem!). Anyway, I found this book a little difficult to get into at the beginning, firstly because I had just read The Book Thief where it feels as if practically every sentence means something and leaves you with something to consider, so it is strange going back to that not necessarily being the case. Secondly, this is the first fantasy book I have read in a good long while so that took a bit of getting used to too. Despite this, as I kept reading I got more and more into it and was flying through by the end. I also forgot since my first reading, how much I like the character of Sam who is the human best friend of one of the aliens (the titular number four). It seems like I have a thing for the human character in the middle of fantasy races (see Stiles in the TV programme Teen Wolf or Isobel in the Shiver series)!

After I am Number Four I came back to the real world with Tina Fey’s autobiography, Bosspants. I really enjoyed reading this book and it included many moments where I genuinally laughed out loud. I will say I think I might have enjoyed it a little bit more if I were a Saturday Night Live fan (I found the same thing with Amy Poehler’s autobiography) but that has more to do with me than the book itself. Even so, this was a really nice, easy-going read.

Currently then, I am reading The Power of Six, the second in the I Am Number Four series. I’m actually really enjoying it and despite having already read it, I feel excited and anxious while reading as I can only remember bits and pieces. Unfortunately, there is a bit of a love triangle situation going on, which also annoyed me the first time I read this book but I’m hoping it goes away soon as I didn’t actually remember it until I was reading about it again!

Top Pick:

The Book Thief. Without question or doubt!

IMG_1334

So there we have it, another book filled month finished. Moving into July I will be finishing The Power of Six and based on how much I am enjoying it right now, I might even pick up the next in the series straight away…we’ll just have to see how that love triangle goes!

Some Thoughts on The Book Thief

I recently finished re-reading The Book Thief and was once again bowled over by the beauty of this novel. There are many reasons that I love this book as an avid reader, as an English Literature student and as an individual. I have tried to put some of them into words here. But first a short summary of the novel

  • It is narrated by Death
  • Liesel Meminger is the book thief
  • She goes to live with her adopted parents Hans and Rosa Hubermann
  • They hide¬†a Jew in their basement
  • Death visits the book thief three times

Death

Not only is this novel narrated by Death, but the portrayal of death (with and without an upper case ‘d’) is, for me, a new and unique one. So often humans use death as a scapegoat when we¬†are at fault for killing each other, at¬†best through ineptitude, and at worst, through the evil humanity is capable of. In The Book Thief, though,¬†Death merely clears up the mess humanity has made. He is remorseful and caring of the souls he picks up, carrying them like babies and even has to pay close attention to the colours of the sky to distract himself.

‘I am haunted by humans’

Here, we come to the last lines of the novel,¬†where Death admits that he is ‘haunted by humans’.¬†I¬†should¬†point out that I love the last lines of novels. As I approach the end I get really excited wondering what¬†thought or revelation I am going to be left with.¬†On this count,¬†The Book Thief does not disappoint.¬†I just find this simple line so beautiful. For me, it epitomises all of the loneliness and despair of¬†Death. Just consider some of the meanings of ‘haunted’. It can mean tormented, and¬†Death is certainly¬†tormented by humans and humanity. It also, of course, refers to ghosts,¬†which perhaps suggests that even¬†as humans¬†live they are merely¬†ghosts to Death as even our natural life span is¬†hugely finite while¬†Death points out that he is eternal. This idea is¬†accentuated by the fact that Death sometimes¬†tells us chapters in advance¬†about deaths¬†that are going¬†to occur, so that we too have to hear about the experiences of characters¬†and in many cases fall in love with them, all the while knowing in the back of our¬†minds that they are soon going to die. Personally, I find this experience utterly heart-breaking, though it¬†gives only a slight¬†insight into how Death must feel and makes his confession at the end of the novel all the more affecting.

‘I have hated words and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right’

One of the differences between my first and second readings of the novel was my recognition of the status of words in the novel. Upon first reading I knew that words were important but until rereading, I did not appreciate that words were a major, if not the main character of the novel. Words are constantly personified in the novel and given agency and power; Hitler starts a war using words, Liesel gives Max (the Jew hidden in her basement) the sky using words. Words are everywhere in this novel. Not only are we told of the importance of words, we are shown first hand through the poetic writing of the novel itself. It is a truly beautiful experience.

Characters

Using Death as an omniscient¬†narrator, this novel manages to give an insight into the lives of¬†many different characters, making us feel for, and with, all of them. There is¬†of¬†course Liesel,¬†the book thief herself, Hans Huberman with his living¬†accordion, Rosa Hubermann with her “Saumensch”, Max Vandenberg, stealing¬†the sky (I can’t help but feel that Death must feel a certain kinship with Max, as he too could be said to steal the sky as he collects souls) and Rudy, Liesel’s best friend to mention but a few.

The Book Thief

Despite all of the above, perhaps what I love most about the Book Thief is the range of different things different individuals can take away from it. Even on a second reading I have discovered new and exciting elements to the story so who knows what someone else may find?

Ultimately, The Book Thief is a beautiful novel that broke my heart, it made me feel, it made me cry and it made me fall in love with words over and over again.

 

Monthly Roundup – May 2017

May was a pretty busy month for me – I had coursework to hand it and I was back and forwards from University for exams which meant that most of my time was spent either on a train or holed up in my room revising. At the end of the month I also moved out of my current University accommodation which meant packing and transporting a whole load of things including some pretty heavy books!

With all of this going on I didn’t necessarily read less this month, I just read differently. Normally my monthly roundup consists of a few fiction books, some of which¬†I am studying at University and the occasional non-fiction. This month, though, I read three non-fiction books mainly, I think, because I find it much easier to read non-fiction while revising for exams (I’m not sure why, I would have thought I’d prefer fiction to get away from the real world of revising but obviously not!), and one YA fiction book.

The first book I read this month was ‘The Bookshop that Floated Away’ which is about the author, Sarah Henshaw, travelling around Britain on her bookshop barge. This book has been on my ‘to-read’ list for a while as I love books about books and in fact, this book was recommended in ‘The Bookshop Book’ by Jen Campbell (a great¬†book about different bookshops all around the world). I really enjoyed this read, mostly because I really like Sarah Heshaw’s narrative voice. I also massively admire Sarah’s determination and drive and since reading have been telling myself to ‘be more Sarah’, meaning if things don’t work to try harder and that just because¬†I don’t think I’m good at something doesn’t mean I shouldn’t try. There is also a really interesting section of the book written from the boat’s perspective which is a cool change and has also given me my current favourite book quote ‘we¬†were made of sterner stuff than feather’ (p. 183).

The next book I read was ‘Almost Adulting’ by the YouTuber Arden Rose. I should point out now that I have never watched any of Arden’s videos and that might have been my first mistake. I was more drawn in by the title of the book than anything else because I often feel like someone struggling to fit into the world of adulthood. The book was more biographical than I expected but, again, this was probably more to do with me than the book. Ultimately, this wasn’t one of my favourite books this year but there were bits that made me laugh and I feel like everyone could find something they liked in there.

Next I went for ‘The Road to Little Dribbling’ by Bill Bryson which my Dad gave me.¬†Here, Bill Bryson travels around Britain and gives his opinion on things he finds funny or strange or anything else between. I actually really enjoyed this book, it was the first Bill Bryson¬†book I have ever read so I enjoyed a new, unique and often funny narrative voice (although I didn’t agree with everything he said, but you never can!). It was also really nice reading this book, about travelling, on sunny train journeys with my headphones plugged in¬†because it was a real escape from the stress of exams.

The last book I read this month was after my exams had finished (yei!) and it was ‘The Names they Gave Us’ by Emery Lord. Earlier this year I read another book by Emery Lord ‘When we Collided’ which I didn’t enjoy so much, but I¬†really loved this one! It is about a Christian girl called Lucy who goes to work at a camp for troubled kids over the summer as a favour to her mum whose cancer has reappeared. Although I guessed quite a few of the twists before they happened (no spoilers!) this was still a really enjoyable¬†read. It had some good messages about accepting people and¬†was really interesting for me personally as I think it’s the first YA novel I have read that really explores faith so that was cool¬†too.

Onto my current read, then,¬†and I’m really excited because I have finally (finally) picked up The Book Thief (by Markus Zusak)¬†again. At the end of May I could feel myself sliding into a reading slump so I decided that it was finally time and I was not mistaken! I am currently¬†enjoying it just as much as the first time I read it. Interestingly, though,¬†I have realised that I’m reading it differently and I think this is really to do with studying English literature at University. I always loved the language of this novel but now, not only do I think¬†the¬†writing¬†is¬†beautiful, I know more why i.e. I know more¬†what Markus Zusak is doing. Amazingly this has made me appreciate the novel even more than I already did!

Top Pick:

I think for my top pick in May I have to go for ‘The Bookshop that Floated Away’ because it really made me laugh and, without getting too clich√©, I feel like it has actually changed the way I live a little bit (be more Sarah!).

IMG_2487 (2)

So, there we have it, onto June (half way through the year!), when I will hopefully finish The Book Thief and get a few more reads in, although I have no idea what yet!

P.S. I promise I will write a blog post sometime that doesn’t¬†include The Book Thief (but what can I say, it’s in the name of my blog!!).

P.P.S. Almost Adulting doesn’t appear in the feature¬†image because somewhere between my University accommodation and my family home I seem to have misplaced it!

 

Top 5 – Favourite Books

The first top¬†5 of this blog couldn’t have been anything but my top¬†5 favourite books. The only problem was that this meant I actually had to decide on my top¬†5 favourite books and as every booklover knows, this is no easy task! Lucky for me, the first two were easy as ‘The Book Thief’ and the ‘The Fault in Our Stars’ are 100% my two favourite books (at the moment anyway!).¬†The next few weren’t so simple but finally¬†I got there, although the honourable mentions at the bottom show just how hard fought the competition was (and let’s be honest, on another day I might list a completely different set of books!).

  1. The Book Thief – Markus Zusak

As anyone who knows me (and by knows, I mean anyone who has¬†made the mistake of mentioning that they’re not sure what to read next anywhere near me) I love The Book Thief. It’s one of those amazing reads where you can split your life into a before and after of when you read it (if you’re looking for a film comparison think maybe¬†La La Land or Inside Out, you know the films¬†that change the way you see¬†world?). I briefly covered the plot of this novel in a previous post so here I will just say – in The Fault in Our Stars John Green writes:

‘Sometimes, you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all living humans read the book.’

For me, The Book Thief is that book.

2. The Fault in Our Stars – John Green

Another one I have previously covered here but a list of my favourite books would be incomplete without it. John Green is one of my favourite authors as I just love the poetry of his writing style and The Fault in Our Stars is my favourite one of his novels. It has two wonderful main characters, is extremely emotional (for some reason I am drawn to books that make me cry!) and features beautiful lines like ‘my thoughts are stars I cannot fathom into constellations’… to be honest I never stood a chance!

3. Shiver series – Maggie Stiefvater (Shiver, Linger, Forever)

A bit of a cheat here because this is a series and not one novel. In my defence if I had to pick just one it would be ‘Forever’ which is the third book in the series and that just isn’t helpful if someone wants a reading recommendation! This series is about humans and wolves and humans who turn into wolves and is, in my opinion, pretty great. It’s got two romantic relationships that I love (no spoilers!) and one of my favourite literary characters ever¬†plus a strong female to boot in Isabel. These books are also sentimental to me because they were the first books by Maggie Stiefvater I ever read and she has since become my favourite author (you know, the one where you have to get your hands on everything they have written and your insides go funny when you hear they have a new novel on the way) so they have that going for them too.

4. Lock and Key – Sarah Dessen

I read a lot of Sarah Dessen books growing up. My older sister started first and of course, like every little sister, I wanted to be just like her, so followed suit. The sister connection is perhaps what makes this novel stick out in my mind. In Lock and Key, seventeen year old Ruby’s mum¬†does a runner so she goes to live with her sister Cora, who Ruby doesn’t trust because she feels like Cora abandoned her when they were younger. Family is all important in this novel whether for good or bad reasons, with the romantic storyline following Ruby and the cute boy next door Nate weaved in with these family ties. I think the importance of family and of doing your best to help the people you care about is what makes this the Sarah Dessen book I keep going back to over and over (and over) again!

5. Boys Don’t Cry – Malory Blackman

Boy’s Don’t Cry. Put briefly this is one of the most emotional and affective books I have ever read. For me, at least, it was literally unputdownable. I started it one night and finished it a few hours later and it is the only book I can remember crying reading from pretty much the first page to the last. It follows Dante, who is waiting for his A-level results, but suddenly finds himself in charge of who he is told is his baby daughter, Emma. To be honest I could gush about is book all day, so all I’ll say here is that it made my heart hurt in the best way possible.

Honourable Mentions

  • Legend – Marie Lu
  • Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone – J. K. Rowling
  • Rebecca – Daphne du Maurier
  • Everything, Everything – Nicola Yoon

 

Booked in -Summer Reading Plans 2017

I recently finished my second year University exams and while I was revising I had a few ideas about books I wanted to read or, more accurately in the case of many of them, re-read. At the time I didn’t really want to get started with any because I always find reading hard when I’m revising so I decided to do the second best thing and make a list.

Now, even though I’m calling this list ‘reading plans’ it’s not a¬†reading challenge¬†or set in stone, to be honest I think some of these picks might just have been my brain trying to get me to procrastinate, but only time will tell!!

So here goes:

  1. The Book Thief – Markus Zusak

Book number one on this list and the first book I will ever discuss on this blog is, fittingly, my favourite book ever, although I have only ever read it once. This novel is about a girl called Liesel navigating Germany during World War II, as narrated by Death. It is also the most beautiful book I have ever read. Never have I spent so much time just holding a book in my hands, breathing deeply, and thinking about what I have just read. I tell every single person who asks me for a book recommendation (and let’s be honest, every single person who doesn’t ask too) to¬†read this book, so this¬†summer it’s time to take my own advice, and enjoy it all over again!

2.  The Fault in Our Stars РJohn Green

Another re-read here and my second favourite book ever. The Fault in Our Stars is narrated by Hazel, who has lung cancer, and mainly follows her relationship with Augustus Waters, who she meets at a cancer support group. Different to ‚ÄėThe Book Thief‚Äô I have read this book many, many times. It is not too long and I find John Green¬†very easy to read, so if I am ever in a reading slump or feeling stressed or anything really, this is the book I turn to. I’m sure this summer will be no different.

3. The Lord of the Rings – J. R. R. Tolkien

A bit of a disclaimer on this one: I got the urge to re-read the series while I was in the middle of my revision, so it is not only possible but highly likely that this was a mega procrastination plan! I often find fantasy set in different worlds quite difficult to read but Middle Earth is a land I love to get lost in so we’ll have to see if I go back to it this summer. I might just take part in some book betrayal though and watch the films!

4. The Lorien Legacies – Pittacus Lore

Another series here,¬†and this one¬†I have read about half of. The first book in this series ‘I am Number Four’ (about one of a group of aliens who come to earth to try and escape being hunted) came out in 2011 and I really enjoyed it. I kept reading the books as the came out but in the periods between releases I lost track of the story (I have a mega case of reading amnesia!) so in the end I just kind of gave up. Different to other series I have abandoned, though, I still have an interest in this one so I‚Äôm hoping to finish it during the summer, reading the books close enough together so that I actually¬†understand what‚Äôs going on this time!

So there we have it. My summer reading plans 2017. Will I actually stick to them? I have no idea, but my summer starts here, so we’ll just have to wait and see!!